What is it actually like to get one of the Covid-19 vaccines?

Millions of people across the country have now received their first dose, with some even getting their complete double dose protection.

But millions more are waiting patiently and wondering – what can I expect when it’s my turn?

As someone who is not a massive fan of needles – and someone who was told to shield when the pandemic hit because of an underlying condition – I thought I would share my vaccine experience.

In Salisbury, there has been plenty of praise for the heroic efforts of NHS staff, volunteers, military personnel and others involved in an efficient local rollout to protect the vulnerable.

Less has been said, however, about what getting the vaccine feels like, whether or not there are side effects and why the truly outlandish conspiracy theories and misinformation are nonsense.

READ MORE - 13 official possible Pfizer Covid jab side effects

So here is my vaccine diary.

Article continues below.

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Salisbury Journal: The Pfizer vaccine being prepared (Credit: PA)The Pfizer vaccine being prepared (Credit: PA)

It should be said, this was my experience and mine alone – others will have it easier, some will have been hit harder, but the vast majority, I suspect, will have a broadly similar experience – one that is successful, safe and efficient.

As several recent vaccine recipients have said while writing into the Journal – we should all get the jab when offered it, for our own good, and the protection of everyone else, too.

I hope sharing what the last week or so has been like for me will encourage any doubters to do so.

Day 0 – getting the Pfizer vaccine – Wednesday, February 3

Will I always remember receiving my first dose of the coronavirus vaccine? It was both memorable and forgettable at the same time.

My experience certainly did not live up to that of those who received their jabs inside the majesty of Salisbury Cathedral.

Sturminster Newton’s Exchange building is a much-loved community space but it is also right next to the medical centre, so arriving felt like a normal trip to the doctors.

As I have seen elsewhere, there were kind volunteers of all ages in high-vis jackets, so when I got out of the car at my allotted time, I was quickly pointed in the right direction by two kind souls.

A third volunteer, nestled inside the double automatic doors of the Exchange’s entrance, was a sweet elderly man who asked me if I had recently had any Covid symptoms, or another sort of vaccine.

Salisbury Journal: The Exchange, Sturminster Newton, a vaccine site in north DorsetThe Exchange, Sturminster Newton, a vaccine site in north Dorset

He sent me past the reception area into a room at the back, the floor decorated with social distancing dots.

Here a lady greeted me, sending me along a path of snaking spaced carpet stickers to two women at a laptop.

It quickly became clear, as my appointment was just before 5pm, that there were more staff around than patients.

After giving my name and date of birth, I was given a form and sent forward again – another room.

This time, despite being ready for a wait, I was instantly sent forward to ‘bay 2’.

This was the first time I spoke to a clinician. She asked me the usual Covid symptoms questions again and about allergic reactions.

I was also offered the choice of which arm to receive the jab in. I said I didn’t mind.

Expecting to take a seat in the two chairs, I dawdled, but then quick as a flash she rolled up a sleeve, warned me to expect a “sharp scratch” and injected me with the Pfizer vaccine.

The scratch was just about noticeable, but certainly not painful.

Next came 15 minutes of observation, in the main space of the Exchange, usually used for performances.

You are handed a pink piece of paper on the way in and told to raise your hand if you experience any of the symptoms listed. You also get a more detailed leaflet.

One of the symptoms was feeling faint – a standard sensation when I go anywhere near or think about needles.

Sure enough, despite a chilly breeze from the open door and plenty of space around me in the almost empty hall, I did start feeling rather woozy.

I tried to be a bit too British about it at first – convinced it was all in my head, trying to breathe deeply.

Eventually I caught a nurse’s attention as she passed.

“I am feeling a bit faint I’m afraid.”

“Are you? Are you really?”

That response – concern and surprise in her voice – did not ease my worries.

I quickly tried to tell her that this sometimes happened to me. Albeit usually straight after a jab, not with the delay of the walk and the sit down.

Long story short, I need not have worried.

Salisbury Journal: The venue was not as grand as the Salisbury Cathedral vaccine centre some have so enjoyed in our cityThe venue was not as grand as the Salisbury Cathedral vaccine centre some have so enjoyed in our city

The nurse – who it transpired had come back from retirement to assist with the pandemic response – was clearly a pro, keeping me chatting, even discussing her own fear of needles (real or device to put me at ease, I did not mind!)

Although still a bit pale, with a nervous tingling in my fingertips, I gradually felt less and less wobbly.

Eventually the 15 minutes were up and I walked gingerly out into the cold evening.

Back in the car, mask off, my breathing felt better still.

Soon I was back home, using the excuse to eat chocolate – “the nurse told me to keep my blood sugar up”.

An hour or so later and I was absolutely fine.

After so much hype, a year of my life hardly going out and enduring isolated lockdowns, this was a momentous moment. I was extremely lucky, I knew that.

But because of the organisation, and the speed of the process without many other people around, it also felt routine and unremarkable.

Aside from the social distancing and huge effort to get as many people immunised as possible, the feeling was no different to any other ordinary trip to a surgery.

Day 1 after the jab - Feb 4

After a good sleep, there was hardly anything to notice at the start of my first day as a sort-of-vaccinated-person.

There was a bit of an ache on the arm that got jabbed and this became more noticeable throughout the day.

Towards the end of the working day/early evening I began to feel very cold, with muscle aches feeling a bit more widespread throughout my body.

However it’s possible this was nothing to do with the vaccine at all – it was cold and I had been confined to my office chair.

I also felt extremely tired and the chills continued.

I took myself to bed at the ridiculous hour of 7.30pm and slept through to 7am the next day.

The leaflet of information about the vaccine said chills, muscle aches and tiredness were all ‘very common’ side effects.

Ah, that makes sense then!

Day 2 - Feb 5

Despite such a long sleep, I still woke feeling drained and pale.

But it was still nothing rest wouldn’t sort, I was sure.

I felt much better than the night before and the chills had stopped.

Day 3 – Feb 6

Now for anyone starting to have any concerns, this was a good day.

I felt a bit more tired than usual and if I were to accidentally knock my arm, sure it was noticeable in what the experts call the “injection site” that it was still a bit more sensitive than usual.

But other than that? I was right as rain.

As we often are in lockdown, I was desperate to get outside and went for a really refreshing walk in some nearby fields.

I felt great by this stage (mid-afternoon) and despite wrapping up warm to avoid the resurgence of any of those ‘chills’, I didn’t even feel cold on a crisp sunny day.

Day 4 – Feb 7

To be honest, from here on out the diary becomes boring.

But then that is sort of the point – there was nothing to report, everything was fine and that should reassure anyone who has been bothered by any vaccine misinformation or scaremongering.

I went for another walk, had a typical Sunday. All was well.

Day 5 – Feb 8

Monday rolled around, I did a full working day. All fine.

Day 6 – Feb 9

Tuesday tends to be a long working day and despite this, I felt good, the same as I usually would. Nothing unusual.

Day 7 – Feb 10

One week since getting the vaccine I woke up early for work, felt productive and went for a walk at lunch time. Again, all was well.

Day 8 – Feb 11

Thursday, another fairly busy working day. Again there were no side effects, not even so much as an arm ache anymore.

Day 9 – Feb 12

A full nine days after getting the Pfzier vaccine, I felt my usual self and if anything, gradual optimism was setting in that soon – or in the next few weeks at least – my body should have built up some protection to Covid-19.

I also got the good news the first of my parents had received a vaccine dose, this time the Oxford-AstraZeneca version.

In their first few hours after injection, they also felt good, pleased and grateful.

I now await the invite for my second dose without any nerves.

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